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Best in Box: National Collegiate Box Series Top 40

By Paul Tutka, 12/27/19, 4:30PM PST

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Photo by Lacey Den Hartog and graphic by Scott Andrews

Even just four short years ago, to compile a list like this one – the National Collegiate Box Series Top 40 – would have been impossible. 

Impossible in large part because next to no American-born collegiate lacrosse players were even playing the sport at the time. Sure, a select few committed to playing either Junior ‘A’ or ‘B’ in Canada with varying degrees of success, but even if you simply spat out those names, you’d be scrambling to throw together a Top 5. Anyone that played woulda made the grade. 

The NCBS has changed that. 

When the Colorado Collegiate Box Lacrosse League launched their four-team league in 2017, American college kids playing legit box went from a small handful, to nearly one hundred. With the addition of the Ohio Collegiate Box Lacrosse League a year later, plus continued expansion in both leagues since, this past summer 200 American college-aged lacrosse players played a full summer’s worth of box lacrosse. 

In 2020, that number is expected to double with two new region-specific loops. An official announcement for both leagues will be made early in the new year. 

Are these leagues at the same skill level the current Canadian Junior leagues are operating at? Of course not, but in 1933 when Brampton, Mount Dennis, Oshawa, and Oakwoods started playing in the Ontario Amateur Lacrosse Association’s newly formed Junior ‘A’ circuit, nothing like that existed north of the border either.

With that said, the quality of box lacrosse that took place in Colorado and Ohio last year was not too shabby. In fact, it was pretty damn impressive. Mount Dennis likely would have poached some players back in the 30s had the NCBS existed. 

These pioneering American players are not only improving themselves for their next school season and/or increasing their chances of making a National Lacrosse League roster one day; they’re also building a lacrosse brand that a hundred years from now will feel as rooted as the Northmen are in Orangeville, the Salmonbellies in New Westminster or the Shamrocks in Victoria. Whether they realize it or not, the movement they’re in the middle of right now is truly something special, historic, and game changing. 

Who are these players?

As part of the first-ever edition of USBOXLA’s new Best in Box Series, we present to you the NCBS Top 40. We ranked the 40 best players that played in these leagues in 2019. While reputations and past performances were factored into our decisions, the emphasis behind this list was largely based what we saw this past summer. Coaches from each NCBS team were consulted, as were various league and NCBS management, in addition to re-watching countless hours of game film from the CCBLL, OCBLL, and the NCBS National Championship. Every second of NCBS lacrosse, whether regular season or playoffs, played a part in our decisions.

So, who are these players? Here. We. Go…

40. DREW LAZAR

From: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NCBS: Stoneflies (CCBLL)
School: University of Colorado Denver
Class: Graduated
NLL: 2019

Had it not been for a bummer-of-a-broken thumb that kept him sidelined for most of the season, Lazar would have placed considerably higher here. Although the sample size is small, his goals per game tally (3.6) was tops in Colorado, due in large part to a pair of stunning 7-goal performances that showcased Lazar’s darting change of direction, impressive offensive vision, and rapid release in treacherous traffic. 

39. CONNOR RYAN

From: Westerville, Ohio
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 185 lbs. 
NCBS: Rivermen (OCBLL)
School: Capital University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

It can be difficult for pure defenders like Ryan to garner recognition. It’s even harder when you play for a spotlight-stealing lineup like the Rivermen, but Ryan did just that for the Ohio Cup and National Champions last year. As tough and rugged as he is in his role, the Capital Senior also regularly displayed fantastic footwork while flushing out the opposition’s top forwards. He knows his role, and plays it very, very well. 

38. ANDREW BONIFACE

From: Gates Mills, Ohio
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 155 lbs.
NCBS: Walleyes (OCBLL)
School: University of Hartford
Class: Sophomore
NLL: 2022

It was just a few years ago that Boniface turned a ton of heads at the Midwest Classic as arguably the tournament’s top and most versatile High School A player. Over just two seasons in the OCBLL, he’s continued to impress and carve out the same reputation at the collegiate level. Within seconds, he’ll defensively disrupt the opposition’s offense, snag a loose ball, and scream up the floor untouched – maybe even score. Yup, he’s extremely athletic, but Boniface doesn’t just scoop and sprint. He’s smart, selective, and represents a newly educated D-first American athlete that has an impressive box IQ too. 

37. AUSTN POPOVICH

From: Columbus, Ohio
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 195 lbs.
NCBS: Stags (OCBLL)
School: Robert Morris University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

If his rank was based on rep alone, Popovich would be way up the charts, but with a limited amount of minutes suiting up for the Stags this past summer (sidelined with a knee injury), he slipped some. The big righty has a serious rifle and also some underrated feeding ability, growing into a more complete overall offensive box player over the past two OCBLL seasons. Scoring 25 goals during a full 2018 campaign, it’ll be interesting to see what type of points Popovich produces in 2020, his last year with the Stags and the Colonials. 

36. OSCAR MAHONEY

From: Santa Cruz, California
Height: 6’7”
Weight: 250 lbs.
NCBS: Gold Miners (CCBLL)
School: University of Oregon
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

Nope, his height and weight are not typos. Mahoney is massive, but he’s more than just an imposing frame on the floor. The Santa Cruz native had played a ton of high-level box for the Cali*Lax ALL-STARS and Team USBOXLA prior to his CCBLL career. One of the top defensive defenders in the CCBLL, Mahoney is a vocal leader, has a high box IQ, and typically gets the toughest defensive assignments on most shifts. Hopefully in 2020, the CCBLL can finally find a jersey that fits him.  

35. NOAH GLEESON

From: Dublin, Ohio
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 210 lbs.
NCBS: Rivermen (OCBLL)
School: Cleveland State University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

Gleeson glowed for the Rivermen both defensively and in transition all summer, but his offensive awakening during the NCBS National Championship allowed him to show how impactful and clutch he can be up front too. He registered as many points (9) during the National Championship against the Fighting Bison in just two games (and an extra OT frame) than what he did all regular and postseason in the OCBLL. His flexibility to excel in a variety of roles makes him an intriguing pro prospect. 

34. NICK WILLIAMS

From: Evergreen, Colorado
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 190 lbs.
NCBS: Red Hawks (CCBLL)
School: Hofstra University
Class: Sophomore
NLL: 2022

Few saw their stock sore as much as Hofstra’s hulking Williams did in 2019. He went from relying simply on athleticism and reacting to the opposition, to building his overall box IQ by better anticipating where he needs to be and how he fit into the Red Hawks’ high-performing offense. Only eventual CCBLL MVP Jake Govett (9) bettered his Morrow Cup point production (8) for the ‘Hawks. With an anticipated bigger role at school and next summer season, the upside with Williams is pretty significant.

33. STEPHEN MASI

From: Easton, Pennsylvania
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 160 lbs.
NCBS: Guardians (OCBLL)
School: Cleveland State University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

With zero box experience before playing his first OCBLL season in 2018, to see how far Masi has come indoors is incredibly impressive. Although maybe most notable is his outside blast, Masi also maneuvers well off ball with explosive short sprints to create optimal scoring opportunities. Leading the Guardians in points (15) and goals (11), Masi’s increased role with the new OCBLL club allowed him to show what he’s capable of.

32. TY "TAZ" DELANEY

From: Berkley, California
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 170 lbs.
NCBS: Gold Miners (CCBLL)
School: Limestone College
Class: Sophomore 
NLL: 2022

In 2018, “Taz” was fun to watch. A year later, he was still a natural born thriller, but also developed into a more complete, polished, and better box-specific player for the Gold Miners. He plays hellaciously hard and has no fear absorbing blows going to the goal. Delaney is a speedster, has above average vision, and plays whatever role is needed. This past year he really blossomed offensively, doubling his goal total (17) and playing with a composed confidence on the other side of center. 

31. JJ HOOTS

From: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 195 lbs.
NCBS: Stoneflies (CCBLL)
School: Rhodes College
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

His almost 60% win rate at the face-off circle (129/216) was one of the better percentages for regular draw guys in the NCBS, but Hoots was much more than just a FOGO for the Stoneflies. Described as a “must have” on gamed days by ‘Flies coach Dave Long, Hoots is a hound on loose balls, has quick wheels pressing up the floor, plus has the ability to make quick decisions in dicey situations. Needless to say, he plays a critical role in winning and maintaining possession for the Stoneflies too.  

30. EASTON CECIL

From: Highlands Rand, Colorado
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 220 lbs.
NCBS: Fighting Bison (CCBLL)
School: University of Utah
Class: Sophomore
NLL: 2022

It was no fluke that Cecil led the nation in caused turnovers (12) or finished fourth in loose ball scoops (55). No shocker to see him lead the NCBS in penalty minutes either (42), but if you were only judging the sophomore Ute by his D-centric stats, you’d probably be surprised that he registered 17 goals for the Bison this past summer – five of which were shorties (second best in the country). Not many in the NCBS put in as many quality minutes on both sides of the floor as Cecil, who plays an old school, two-way style that not a whole lot of players can or do pull off in 2019. 

29. CREW CINTRON

From: Rocky River, Ohio
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 186 lbs.
NCBS: Walleyes (OCBLL)
School: Lehigh University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

Cintron’s stats spiked slightly from 2018, but his overall game grew much more than the straight-forward story his digits told. A versatile offensive difference maker, Cintron has a slick outside release, sharp accuracy when he rips from range, and proved to be the Walleyes’ most effective power-play point producer (10). If his rate of development continues to climb as quickly it did from Year 1 to Year 2, expect Cintron to be nearing or even inside Top 10 status during his final OCBLL season. 

28. COLBY LENSING

From: Aurora, Colorado
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NCBS: Stoneflies (CCBLL)
School: Lenoir-Ryhne University
Class: Freshman
NLL: 2023

Unlike many NCBS newcomers, Lensing – a two-time Team USBOXLA Midget – has a fairly extensive box lacrosse background, and it shows. Leading the Stoneflies in points (31), goals (24), and shorthanded scoring (2), the Denver Elite product works the two-man game effectively, is extremely intelligent off ball, and can get pretty cheeky with his finishes in tight. He more than doubled is goal production in 2019 too (11 goals in 2018). Just a Freshman in 2020, it’s kinda crazy to imagine how good Lensing can be by the time he’s NLL eligible in 2023.

27. CARTER JENSEN

From: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 180 lbs.
NCBS: Bighorns (CCBLL)
School: Cleveland State University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

On ability, reputation, and experience alone, Jensen is hands down a Top 10 name on this list, but his 2019 season was sidelined due to injury, limiting his impact for the Bighorns. No player in the Top 40 has a box-specific resume as high-end as the CSU senior. Jensen grew up playing box for Denver Elite, has cracked multiple Team USBOXLA rosters, and maybe most impressively played three strong seasons for the BCJALL’s New Westminster Salmonbellies. Smart, skilled, and extremely strong standing his ground with or without the ball, it would be criminal if Jensen was not drafted by an NLL team at the 2020 Draft. 

26. MASON DONATO

From: Henderson, Colorado
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 250 lbs.
NCBS: Bighorns (CCBLL)
School: Northeastern Junior College
Class: Freshman
NLL: 2023

Donato is part of a growing group of American box lacrosse goalies that started playing between the pipes at a young age, and while critics often point to Team USA’s current shortcomings in goal, it’s players like Donato who will change that opinion in coming years. Often in the conversation for the best backstop behind Skylar Whinery (keep scrolling to find “Moose”), Donato plays his angles well, maintains composure, and still has four years of NCBS eligibility to blossom into the Colorado league’s top tender. 

25. CJ HUGHES

From: Cincinnati, Ohio
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 195 lbs.
NCBS: Aviators (OCBLL)
School: Capital University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

The big lefty goal getter has been one of the more consistent offensive players in the OCBLL over the league’s first two summers. With nearly 30 goals over that time, Hughes has shown an ability to not only selectively scorch the opposition from downtown, but has power-forward ability in tight too. A great teammate with an awesome attitude, Hughes’ on-and-off floor ability are what many NLL GMs and scouts are searching for when looking for Americans that can transition to the pro league. 

24. JARED STEPKA

From: Bay Village, Ohio
Height: 5’5”
Weight: 160 lbs.
NCBS: Walleyes (OCBLL)
School: Cleveland State University
Class: Senior 
NLL: 2020

Only Jack Hannah, who’ll you’ll find just a tad lower on this page, had more helpers than Stepka during the 2019 OCBLL season. An important piece of the Walleyes’ offense, Stepka has a pretty accurate outside rip, but can also weave through the opposition to create chances inside as well. He’s fast, feisty, and his footwork makes it difficult to keep him contained. 

23. PARKER HYLTON

From: Warrenton, Virginia
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 215 lbs.
NCBS: Walleyes (OCBLL)
School: Randolph-Macon College
Class: Sophomore
NLL: 2022

The Walleyes have gone to the Ohio Cup final twice in two years. It’s unlikely that would have happened had it not been for the play of Parker Hylton between their pipes. He first impressed playing for the Capital North Stars at Resolute’s Midwest Classic in 2018, developing rapidly in a short amount of time. An always reliable angle-based goalie, the Walleyes won a handful of games in 2019 they probably shouldn’t have thanks largely to Hylton’s clutch performances.

22. GRIFFIN HUGHES

From: Powell, Ohio
Height: 5’7”
Weight: 170 lbs.
NCBS: Aviators (OCBLL)
School: Ohio State University
Class: Junior
NLL: 2021

With no Landon Trout in 2019, the Aviators relied on a more balanced attack this past summer. While he only fit into five games, Griffin Hughes was arguably the team’s highest impact offensive threat, still managing to lead the Aviators in point production (22), assists (8), plus even-strength (16 points) and special-teams scoring (6 points). Quick, slippery, and extremely elusive, Hughes needs just a split second in space to create issues for the opposition.   

21. DARIUS MILLER

From: Aurora, Colorado
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 270 lbs.
NCBS: Gold Miners (CCBLL)
School: Colorado State University – Pueblo
Class: Freshman
NLL: 2023

When he’s at his best, there are few goalies in the NCBS that can hang at the level Miller competes at. A hamstring injury in 2019 scaled back his explosiveness somewhat, but the committed Coloradan netminder still impressed for the Gold Miners. Miller has fantastic footwork, thought to be partly due to his football background. He covers his crease well, aggressively stepping off his line and properly playing his angles. It’s pretty evident that the team trusts Miller to make the saves he needs to, but also many that should be behind him, allowing the Miners to play with confidence pressing out of their own end.

20. CHRIS DIMARCO

From: Worthington, Ohio
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 205 lbs. 
NCBS: Rivermen (OCBLL)
School: Ohio Northern University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

It’s often debated if faceoffs are all that important in box lacrosse. Ask any coach or player on the Rivermen how valuable the possessions are that Chris DiMarco gets them every game, and you better believe the NCBS National Champions would highly praise their dot-dominating teammate for his skills at center. DiMarco easily led the OCBLL in face-off wins (150), a hefty 50-win gap over the next closest contender. He also works tirelessly between the lines after draws too, snagging some momentum shifting loosies throughout the season. Sure, DiMarco is a role player, but when you play your role that ridiculously well, you add a whole lotta value to your squad. 

19. ANDERS ERICKSON

From: Lone Tree, Colorado
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 163 lbs.
NCBS: Blizzard (CCBLL)
School: Furman University
Class: Sophomore
NLL: 2022

Another Team USBOXLA alumni, Erickson has developed into a pretty potent offensive force – one of the few bright spots for the Blizzard in 2019. He has well above average box IQ. No matter the situation, Erickson’s decision making is often more than just simply reacting, but rather purposeful and planned based on what he sees developing in front of him. After an impressive Freshmen season with Furman (28 points in 14 games), Erickson is most definitely a ball player to keep your eye on leading up to the 2022 NLL Draft. 

18. SEAN TRAYNOR

From: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 150 lbs.
NCBS: Red Hawks (CCBLL)
School: Rochester Institute of Technology
Class: Sophomore
NLL: 2022

Only five players produced more points than Traynor this past year, and most of those are reigning or former MVPs in the NCBS. An experienced box ball player having excelled with both Denver Elite and Team USBOXLA at the Trevor Wingrove Memorial a few years back, Traynor plays with confidence and composure fighting through traffic, but can also whip beauties from long range into the back of the net too. He logs quality minutes defensively as well, a big reason why he scooped up a co-CCBLL leading 59 loose balls in 2019. 

17. GAGE JOHNSON

From: Monument, Colorado
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 180 lbs. 
NCBS: Walleyes (OCBLL)
School: Cleveland State University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

Although he showed some offensive pop with a somewhat unexpected yet extremely impressive hat-trick against the eventual Ohio Cup and National Champion Rivermen mid-season, Johnson has gained a rep as being arguably the best defensemen in the OCBLL. Big, tough, athletic, and aggressive, Johnson’s relentless approach makes him extremely difficult to match up against. 

16. DREW ERICKSON

From: Danville, California
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 170 lbs. 
NCBS: Blizzard (CCBLL)
School: University of Denver
Class: Sophomore
NLL: 2022

The California kid has put up big numbers at the USBOXLA Nationals, the Team USBOXLA U18 tour, and now Drew Erickson is doing the same in the CCBLL, where he was drafted first overall in the league’s 2019 entry draft. The thing that sets Erickson apart from most other top scorers in the NCBS is not just the rate at which he scores, but how he does it. Flying from behind the cage, the no-look from behind his back, or slipping in behind the opposition’s defenders to bury one in tight, Erickson’s finishes are usually pretty spectacular. For the critics that still say Americans need space to create like they do on grass, they’ve clearly never seen Drew Erickson play box lacrosse.

15. ZACH WHITENACK

From: Galena, Ohio
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NCBS: Guardians (OCBLL)
School: Cleveland State University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

A strong defender with some serious speed in transition, Whitenack is a force for the Guardians no matter what side of the floor he’s on. He anticipates the play extremely well, often multiple steps ahead of the opposition, which when combined with his wicked wheels, makes it almost impossible to leash him on the press. Extremely athletic and one of the more multifaceted players in the Ohio loop, Whitenack should be fire during his final collegiate season in 2020.

14. ANTHONY FERRIE

From: Littleton, Colorado
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 219 lbs.
NCBS: Bighorns (CCBLL)
School: Colorado State University – Pueblo
Class: Graduated
NLL: 2019

No player has scored more NCBS goals than Anthony Ferrie. After ending his CCBLL career this past summer, the NLL-eligible forward found the back of the net an amazing 103 times over three summers in Colorado. Leading the Bighorns in every major (and minor) offensive category in 2019, the pro capable CSUP grad also led the team in loose balls (31), and again sat right near the top of the CCBLL scaring race. The 2018 CCBLL MVP runner-up ticks off so many of the boxes NLL GMs and scouts search for when grading potential American prospects. It was shocking Ferrie garnered no attention during this past NLL offseason. 

13. LUKAS BUCKLEY

From: Walpole, Massachusetts
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 192 lbs.
NCBS: Stags (OCBLL)
School: Ohio State University
Class: Senior (RS)
NLL: 2020

There’s a lot to like about Lukas Buckley’s game. A lot. You name the season-ending stat, and Buckley probably led the Stags in that category, or was sitting just behind the team leader. He has the tools, ability, and attitude to be a legit power forward next year, and potentially past the NCBS too. Gritty, tough, and zero fear in traffic, Buckley is an American-born athlete that was without question born to play box. 

12. ISAAC ATENCIO

From: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NCBS: Bighorns (CCBLL)
School: Cleveland State University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

NCBS leagues hand out a “Coaches Award” every season to a player on each team. The unique accolade was created to recognize players who had a positive impact to their team's success, chemistry, and character. Only one player in the CCBLL has been honored with that award in each of the league’s three seasons. That player is Isaac Atencio. A Jim Veltman-type player whose leadership and attitude away from the floor are as important to the team as his unselfish and game-changing abilities while the game clock is ticking. While many theorize that Team USA needs to develop more goalies or more high-end goal scorers, they also unquestionably need more Isaac Atencios too. Great player. Better teammate and person.   

11. NATE MENENDEZ

From: Hudson, Ohio
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 170 lbs. 
NCBS: Walleyes (OCBLL)
School: Cleveland State University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

Although his offensive wizardry was maybe most impressive this past summer, Menendez has some serious swagger in the Walleyes’ own end too. He left defenders dizzy in 1v1 situations, but also has really tremendous shot selection from outside. Once he’s made up his mind, his determination and drive are hard to contain. Whether he’s screaming down the floor on the offensive press or creating space in set situations up front, Menendez is a dangerous difference maker that developed into an even more complete player in 2019.  

10. GRANT BREEDEN

From: Aurora, Colorado
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 160 lbs. 
NCBS: Fighting Bison
School: Colorado State University
Class: Junior
NLL: 2021

Another American that has been playing box for a bit, including an impressive stint in British Columbia, Breeden torched his stats from a season ago and soared up the scoring charts. He notched 26 points for the Bison in 2018. This past summer Breeden registered 64 points, his season-ending point total good enough for second in the CCBLL and third overall nationwide. He sees shooting lanes long before his teammate dishes to him, the ball barely in his pocket long enough for defenders to know he has possession, let alone that he’s already scored on them. He also showcased composure and some crafty stick skills tiptoeing the crease too. 

9. BRYAN HANCOCK

From: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NCBS: Red Hawks (CCBLL)
School: Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Class: Graduated
NLL: 2019

After another strong CCBLL season, Hancock was invited to the San Diego Seals training camp this past fall. He hung around right until the team was finalized, but just missed out on landing a spot in the NLL. Unlike countless Americans at NLL camps over the years, Hancock hands down looked like he belonged. In addition to his two years with the Red Hawks, Hancock also spent time playing both Junior ‘A’ and ‘B’ ball in St. Catharines, Ontario. He plays big, has serious hustle & heart, can produce offensively, and has that rare ability of making those around him significantly better – a big reason why Redhawks forwards have swarmed the CCBLL Top 10 the last two summers. Even without additional expansion, Hancock should probably be playing in the NLL right now. 

8. JAKE TAYLOR

From: Aurora, Colorado
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 205 lbs.
NCBS: Fighting Bison (CCBLL)
School: University of Notre Dame
Class: Freshman
NLL: 2023

Fighting Bison coach and current NLLer, Jeremy Noble, described Taylor as a “special player that only comes around so often” and “as natural a goal scorer as I’ve ever seen”. Taylor is a tremendously talented player, who had he completed a full season for the Bison in 2019, would likely have challenged for the scoring crown, MVP accolades, and #1 on this list. His six-goal performance in Game 1 of the NCBS National Championship was one of the best single game highlight-reel worthy runs we saw in 2019. He dunked it from behind, ripped one from range straight down the middle, cranked one over the shoulder, went top cheddar on the PP, scooped and sniped on the crease, and maybe the most spectacular of them all… got crunched by two defenders in tight only to toss in a filthy little low flicker that left everyone’s jaws on the floor. If Taylor is not a high pick in the 2023 NLL Draft, memo to franchise owners, can you scouts ASAP before they do any further damage to your future rosters. 

7. NICK MUSCI

From: Westerville, Ohio
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 173 lbs.
NCBS: Rivermen (OCBLL)
School: Ohio State University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

Without overstating, Nick Musci was the complete offensive package for the Rivermen in 2019. A unique combination of toughness and talent, Musci crushed the Ohio scoring charts, only finishing behind teammate and OCBLL record smasher, Jack Hannah. He’ll battle as hard for space to score as he does for a long-shot loose ball. His work ethic and heart are high-end, plus the lefty goal grabber creates a ton of match-up issues because he’s willing to absorb whatever the opposition hits him with. It’d be easy to sit back and simply collect the scraps left by a superstar like Hannah. Musci is far from a garbage man though. He’s one of the country’s elite collegiate forwards right now, and we can’t wait to see what he does in 2020. 

6. MATT HUIZENGA

From: New Albany, Ohio
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 200 lbs.
NCBS: Rivermen (OCBLL)
School: Ohio Northern University
Class: Sophomore
NLL: 2022

Matt Huizenga is the best box backstop in Ohio, hands down. He’s received MVP votes over the last two summers, and likely only lost out because Landon Trout and Jack Hannah – well – are absurdly good at box lacrosse. The former Team USBOXLA U18 goalie relies less on angles and size like many of today’s generation of tendies do, and instead makes his stops because of his athleticism, aggressiveness, and ability to out-think the shooter. While we have Skylar Whinery a few spots ahead of him here, the difference between the two American goalies is razor thin. The next World Indoor Lacrosse Championships happen in 2023. Wonder if Team USA will have a few new names to tryout out in goal? Hmmm… 

5. TK HAMMOND

From: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 180 lbs. 
NCBS: Fighting Bison (CCBLL)
School: University of Denver
Class: Freshman
NLL: 2023

Looking up and down this countdown, you’ve seen a ton of ultra-talented American forwards that are providing the country with their most proficient & polished box-specific players at this level than ever before. That’s a fact. Another fact: TK Hammond produced more points than almost any of them (stop us if you’ve heard this one… outside of Jack Hannah). Hammond led Colorado in points (67) and sat in a three-way tie for most helpers in the nation too (25). He is a gifted goal scorer that served multiple needs for the Bison’s booming offensive cast. If a shot is misfired or there’s rebound off a save, it’s usually Hammond collecting the loosie and looking to dish or finish, and man can he ever throw serious fire at the net. Plus, with his size and smarts, when Hammond decides he’s gonna cut to the crease, good luck!

4. SKYLAR "MOOSE" WHINERY

From: Denver, Colorado
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 230 lbs.
NCBS: Fighting Bison (CCBLL)
School: Texas State University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

“Moose” likely has more legit minutes played at the rink and between the pipes than any other American goalie playing the sport right now. We’ll give you a minute, but trust us, there’s no one else. Between the time he’s spent playing for Denver Elite at a ton of tournaments, multiple runs with Team USBOXLA in Canada, and now eating up an obscene amount of action in three full CCBLL seasons, Whinery’s portfolio is positively poppin’. He’s previously garnered interest from Junior clubs in Canada, but “Moose” is 100% built in America. He plays his angles well, reads the game brilliantly, and should get some attention at next year’s NLL Draft. Outside of an NCBS record 80-shot shelling in Game 2 of the National Championship, Whinery’s 2019 was pretty perfect otherwise. 

3. TROY LOPER

From: Seaside, California
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NCBS: Gold Miners (CCBLL)
School: Cleveland State University
Class: Senior
NLL: 2020

He may be from California, but we’re pretty confident Troy Loper could step into any rink north of the border and never be detected for not being a Canuck. The Gold Miners captain and long-time Cali*Lax ALL-STAR stud plays the game hard, and quite honestly, fills pretty much any role that exists in box lacrosse. Even though he crushes it defensively in his own end, his offensive abilities go far beyond simply sparking the press. Loper finished first on the Miners' goal scoring charts (30), which is incredible considering how many minutes he logs doing so many other things. His stick skills are superb, his box IQ is off the charts, his leadership ability is unmatched, and he’s so athletic he could probably change sports as a Senior at CSU and still make whatever roster he chooses. The CCBLL MVP in 2018, Loper will be a most valuable frontrunner again this upcoming summer. He will be drafted in the 2020 NLL Draft. He will play in the NLL. He will play for Team USA. He will.

2. JAKE GOVETT

From: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 175 lbs.
NCBS: Red Hawks (CCBLL)
School: University of Delaware
Class: Sophomore
NLL: 2022

A runner-up for CCBLL MVP honors in 2018, Govett followed that up with another outstanding summer playing for the Red Hawks, a campaign unquestionably good enough to be named this year’s best player in Colorado. In his first-ever game in the CCBLL, Govett exploded for seven goals in what is still the most impressive debut of any player in any NCBS league. He’s played in 28 games over two seasons with the ‘Hawks, and has only been held scoreless once. With still as many as three seasons of NCBS eligibility left, he’ll already likely set new CCBLL career point-producing records midway through this upcoming summer. He is a straight up power forward who not only scores in quantity and quality, he also does a ton of vacuuming at the Foothills Fieldhouse. His 59 loose balls co-led Colorado, and really the nation too when you subtract face-off specialist Chris DiMarco from the muddled mix. For comparison’s sake, last year’s NLL scoring champion (and MVP), Dane Dobbie, finished 74th in the league loose-ball count, and the LB leader, Jeremy Thompson, sat 124th on the NLL scoring charts.

1. JACK HANNAH

From: Milford, Ohio
Height: 6’1"
Weight: 205 lbs.
NCBS: Rivermen (OCBLL)
School: University of Denver
Class: Junior
NLL: 2021

With no offense to any of the extremely talented names listed in this inaugural NCBS Top 40, the easiest ranking to confirm was placing Jack Hannah right here at #1. Hannah’s obscene offensive outburst during the OCBLL regular season set new records not only in Ohio, but nationwide too. He was unstoppable during the OCBLL playoffs with 19 points in the Rivermen’s two-game series sweep of the Walleyes, and then he added another 13 points to his post-season total in the National Championship against an extremely good Fighting Bison squad. His amazing athletic ability alone would make him a force, but Hannah’s silky-smooth stick, ability to create for himself and others off ball, and a command of the indoor game as good as any Canadian playing Junior ball, makes him the most sought-after American pro prospect since Joe Resetarits (drafted 6th overall by Calgary in 2012). As a sophomore last year, Hannah already factored into 15 games with DU (10 of which he started) plus put himself on NLL GM’s radars during the NCBS Final at the USBOXLA Nationals. Did we hype him too much? Honestly, not enough. 

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